Brisbane Heat (4-1) v Perth Scorchers (3-2) @ The Gabba
Preview - The Heat and Scorchers clash for the second time in six days in front of an already sold out Gabba crowd on Wednesday night. The Heat blew the Scorchers off their own paddock last week, claiming a win by a brutal 9 wickets with five overs still to spare. The win elevated the Heat to the top of the BBL6 table with three games to play. Whilst a final’s spot seems certain, victory tonight would go a long way towards securing a home semi-final for the Heat. Having missed the finals in each of the first three seasons, fans in Brisbane finally have something to cheer about this year with the team improving as a unit with every game. The Scorchers are still sitting relatively pretty at 3-2, however will be desperate to avenge their limp display in Perth last week. The Scorchers lie in 4th spot, however, in a heavily congested table, still need two more victories from their final three games to ensure a final’s berth.
Squad Changes - This match up has a far different complexion to last week’s game in Perth with both sides forced into a number of changes due to International call ups. The Heat are missing BBL sensation Chris Lynn who gained a deserved call up to the Australian ODI side after his explosive form in BBL cricket over the past two seasons. Samuel Badree continues to recover from a hamstring injury and will sit out the next two games, while paceman Nic Buchanan has been rested. English import Tymal Mills will make his BBL debut tonight having been included in the Heat's 13-man squad. Mills is one of the most explosive bowlers in T20 cricket, a left arm quick capable of bowling 150km per hour. The Heat have also included young batsman Sam Heazlett and Marnus Labuschagne in their squad. Labuschagne is coming off a score of 195n/o in Grade Cricket on the weekend.
The Scorchers have lost English import David Willey and Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh to ODI duty. Both players leave big holes to fill after producing consistently good performances so far in BBL6. James Muirhead, who is yet to feature for the Scorchers, is also out of the 13-player squad with an injury. English import Tim Bresnan comes into the Scorchers squad for the first time to replace Willey. Bresnan is a very experienced cricketer, having played 85 ODIs for England, 34 T20 internationals, as well as 23 Tests. Bresnan is a quality all-round option, averaging 20 with the bat at a strike rate of 129, and having picked up 114 wickets from 126 games with an economy rate under 8 runs per over. Hilton Cartwright is back in the Scorchers squad after making his Test debut at the SCG while Cameron Valente is also included.
Brisbane Heat Scouting Report - Despite the heroics of Brendon McCullum and Chris Lynn, Jimmy Peirson has done a reasonable job at the top of the order for the Heat. While an average of 21 from five games is quite moderate, his strike rate is over 150, which has allowed the Heat to really dictate terms in the Power Play. His partner, McCullum, has proven his worth in spades already in the first four games with 198 runs at an average of 49 and an eye watering strike rate of 176. McCullum savaged the Perth Scorchers six days ago with a typically cavalier 50n/o from 31 balls. In the absence of Lynn, it will be interesting to see what the Heat do with the key Number 3 batting position. I don't think you could move Alex Ross there given his struggles against fast bowling, and given he is having a moderate BBL6 with just 86 runs at an average of 21. Ben Cutting is a potentially devastating middle order player that the Heat have up their sleeve, and they may choose to promote him or Joe Burns up the order while trying to maintain an all-out attack from their opening three batsmen.
The Heat are the most improved bowling team in BBL6 after a couple of shaky performances to start with. Without their best bowler Samuel Badree in Perth, the Heat's attack really stood up to put in an excellent performance where their execution and discipline was as good as it has been all tournament. Young leg spinner Mitchell Swepson was outstanding in Perth, claiming 2/27 from his 4 overs on a ground where opposition spinners have often struggled with its short straight boundaries. Swepson is the equal leading wicket taker in the competition for spinners, with 7 scalps at an average of 22 and an economy rate of 8.8. He is more an aggressive spinner that might go for a few more runs than some others, but is capable of picking up key wickets. A bit of an unsung hero for the Heat has been Mark Steketee who has been pretty consistent and reliable in every game. Steketee also has 7 wickets at 22 and is going for a respectable 8.15 per over.
Perth Scorchers - The Scorchers top order was blown out of the water by the Heat in Perth six days ago. With Shaun Marsh, Michael Klinger and Ian Bell they have an excellent Top 3, however none of those players are going to come out all guns blazing. What they need instead is for one of those Top 3 batsmen to bat close to the duration of the innings, as their strike rate accelerates as they progress. The issue in Perth was all three got out in the 10s and 20s, which, given their moderate strike rate, set Perth up for only a moderate total. Marsh has been totally out of sorts in BBL6 with just 51 runs at 12 and a strike rate in the 80s. Without Mitchell Marsh, the Scorchers will perhaps need one of their all-rounders to come in at Number 4 and assume greater responsibility in the team. Ashton Turner has shown glimpses of his big hitting ability while Sam Whiteman looked in excellent touch at the top of the order before he was demoted to Number 7.
The Scorchers’ quicks had a rare off night against the Heat last time around with Andrew Tye, Mitchell Johnson and Kane Richardson all going for over 10 runs per over. The Scorchers are a team that are relying on their quicks a lot more this year without a senior spinner in the absence of Brad Hogg. Ashton Agar might be a promising young cricketer, however he has not performed with the ball in the BBL so far. Without David Willey I would expect Mitchell Johnson to open the bowling and try and target McCullum with a few short balls. I was surprised Johnson wasn't introduced until the 6th over last week, with the game virtually being over by the time he came on. Tim Bresnan is a canny medium pacer and I expect him to play a crucial role in the middle overs and at the death with his yorkers and change ups.
Verdict - I am big on the bounce back factor in BBL cricke, and there is no doubt Perth would have been embarrassed by their performance last week. Justin Langer is the sort of character that will relish heading into a cauldron of an opposition’s home ground and intent on revenge. There is no doubt the Heat will miss Chris Lynn, however that is offset at least somewhat given the fact Mitchell Marsh and David Willey were the two best performing players for the Scorchers throughout BBL6. With this game being at the Gabba, the team batting first really needs to put up a score around 180 if they want to be competitive. The Gabba has been an outstanding batting surface so far with the ball skidding on and the shorter straight boundaries being targeted by in form batsmen. I expect Andrew Tye and Mitchell Johnson to bowl a lot better than they did last week and to have an impact on this game. It will also be interesting to see it Mitchell Swepson can back up his terrific performance in Perth last week. More performances like that and he might be in line for an Australian T20 call up in a couple of week’s time.
The Lurker - "I am sticking solid with the Scorchers tonight despite their stinky performance against the Heat last week. Get on Lan Bell to score 25+ into a Scorchers victory. Also I like the Shaun Marsh/Andrew Tye High Bat/Bowler double for the Scorchers. Get Around Me"